Only kidding

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

14 January 2003

Burnley 4 Grimsby Town 0

A cold, cold night down Lancashire way with around 250 Town supporters noisily clucking away behind the goal (to the right as seen on TV). Whole sections of the Burnley stands were closed, with barely discernible patches of humanity dotted around the vast acres of claret and blue plastic. I'm afraid that the vital details regarding the colour of the Town bibs and how wildly the players practised their shooting have been lost in the mists of time.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, Parker, Livingstone, Chettle, Gallimore, Cooke, Groves, Campbell, Barnard, Mansaram and Soames. The substitutes were Bolder, Ward, Thompson and, by a process of elimination as last man standing, Rowan. The fifth man? It didn't look like Allaway, and is alleged to have been Young, which means despite having six goalkeepers, there was none on the bench. The sight of Chettle and Livvo together in defence filled many with inertia. Tailor-made to negate Taylor, who, unfortunately, was absent. This meant Burnley had Jack-be-Nimble (Blake) and Jack-be-Quick (I Moore) up front. Whoops. Macca-less and, maybe, hopeless, Town had sent out a relatively strong reserve team. This was a night to endure rather than enjoy.

First half

Town kicked off towards the Burnley supporters, which was the highlight of our night. Town players moved in strange and unusual ways, like they'd never met before. Burnley started like they had at Blundell Park, a whirling dervish of flicks and tricks. Parker was clearly targeted for early attack and he generally coped with some strong tackles, though his positional play was somewhat awry. There was plenty of helpful pointing by the older players; that is, everyone else on the pitch.

Within the first five minutes, there were several moments of danger for Town as wingers raced clear. 'Almost moments, wasted by poor crosses, over-elaboration and some decent tackles. But no shots so far, just Ali Bongo tomfoolery around the fringes. Then, suddenly, a shot! With Groves pointing the way for Parker to run back, Burnley followed Groves' advice and tipped the ball into the empty space. Blake filled the empty space, cut in from their left, spun around and, from 20 yards out, whacked a low drive towards the near post corner. Coyne soared to his right, jutted out his right arm and the ball diverted off his forearm, up and backwards over the bar. A rather good save, as he didn't see the ball until late.

Then, back to type. Burnley surges, Burnley crosses, Clarets to the left of them, Clarets to the right, but nothing to get hung up about. More crosses, more blocks, the occasional slice of cheese as Burnley danced around the edges of the Town penalty area. I Moore managed to glide free on a breakaway but woefully wellied his shot wider and wider still from 10 yards. Branch, from the right edge of the penalty box, sliced eight yards wide. A Moore [does that mean Alan Moore, or that you weren't sure which? - Ed.] wafted a shot uninterestingly high from outside the area.

Constant pressure, but Burnley didn't look like scoring. Town, on the other hand, didn't look like they'd get inside the Burnley half. As in the first match, the game plan seemed to be ‘whack it up to big Soamesy, Digger'll do it'. The result was possession tossed away like a stodgy pancake, allowing Burnley to turn and run through the midfield and at the defence. Oh, a shot from Town. Soames spinning inside the penalty area on the right and hooking a shot higher than it was wide - and it was Poutonianly wide. In the context of a cold Tuesday in Burnley, that was exciting.

Dull: the game had the tension of a geography lesson on a wet Tuesday in June and the fascination of the inner ring road in Scunthorpe, unlikely to be the subject of a sonnet. After 25 excruciating minutes, Michopoulos fly- and low, hither and thither, for a chink of sunlight, I'll flag it up now with bells and rings and things to make it look good.

This was Town's attack - here, the following five sentences, that's it, forget about the rest. Parker lobbed a long throw towards Groves; Michopoulos caught it and chucked it upfield; and Burnley strikers swarmed forward, virtually trampling the remnants of the Town defence in the process. To cut a long story short they nearly scored, through on Coyne, who saved the moment with a brave double block at Blake's feet, or was it I Moore's, or, well, it could have been any one of a dozen Clarets. Coyne got up, rolled the ball out to Cooke, halfway inside the Town half, who turned and pinged a superb 60-yard pass over the defence to Mansaram on the left wing. Our Bobby Dazzler cut infield and squared to Soames, who waited for the covering defender to arrive and then rolled the ball across the face of the area. Cooke sprinted forward and hit a swirling, curling shot a foot over and wide of the left post. This was about halfway through the second half and briefly woke us up, an excuse for a few songs, some laughter, some jokes old and new. Masochists continue; good news johnnies may as well stop now.

Burnley players were intent on scoring the perfect goal, wishing to walk the ball in only after each player had touched the ball once. They swirled in dizzying patterns that confused the old and infirm, which was half the Town team, of course. Perhaps Groves should have asked Chettle to invent him a thingamabob, so as to stop those Burnley pigeons. Their first shot was from Blake, who teased, tantalised and twisted past three defenders on the Town left, finally cutting into the area and, from a dozen yards out, driving a shot straight into Coyne's stomach.

A few minutes later, Little beguiled, bewitched and befuddled Gallimore, going back for seconds and thirds like a greedy child. He rolled the ball back to Grant, perhaps 10 yards out on the centre-right, who swept a curling shot across Coyne towards the top right corner. Parker slipped in unnoticed and thighed the ball over the bar.

Let's truncate the next 15 minutes: Burnley attacked, Town flapped, Burnley kept passing the ball to Coyne instead of shooting. The most glaring example being when a five-man one-touch passing move down the centre left Grant on the edge of the penalty area behind the defence. Instead of shooting, he looked sideways and rolled the ball across the area - to Coyne.

Blake, sent free down the right, behind the defence, sliced a shot four yards wide. Little dribbled past everyone in black and white, turned around and did it again, before falling over. Blake, I Moore, all through, past and beyond, before tripping themselves up, or crossing high and beyond. Burnley, Burnley, Burnley - all up the other end. If only they could shoot straight they'd have been seven up by the hour mark. The Town players got worse and worse, barely able to string half a pass together. Mansaram and Soames were forever scurrying into channels, making runs for passes that never came. They ran themselves to a standstill with about 20 minutes left, so that any attacks Town did have foundered on lack of personnel.

Parker was replaced after 70ish minutes, following what looked like a clash of heads when challenging for a throw-in. Ward replaced him in a straight swap. Five minutes later Chettle was replaced by Thompson, with Town changing to the famously successful 3-4-3 formation. The back three consisted of Ward, Livvo and Gallimore. Now you know why the last few minutes were so calamitous.

With just over 10 minutes left, Blake received a pass about 25 yards out near the right corner of the penalty area. He sucked Ward towards him and rolled a pass across the face of the box to Little, somewhere near the centre. Little meandered through the area, with Gallimore a fleeting moment in his life, Livvo a spurned mistress and Groves a casual admirer. All three converged upon Little, but the gangly winger turn turn turned again, leaving our defence in a state of mutual confusion. Several half challenges forced LITTLE away from goal, but he twizzled round and, from about eight yards out, curled a shot around Coyne and into the bottom left corner. At one point a defender was within a yard of him, allegedly. Cue music, cue a dribble of Town fans to the exit. Perhaps that is the correct collective noun for Town supporters. Curiously, some of these were earlier claiming to be "Grimsby till they die".

Ah, the dream has gone - Cardiff in May is for television viewing only. The next five minutes were plain sailing for Burnley, more Hollywood football, with party tricks brought out form the closet. Was I mistaken or did Glen Little whip out a pair of spoons and play ‘My Old Man' while drifting past Mr Gallimore? They probably nearly scored again, but they carved Town apart so often that it all blended into one thick soup of disappointment. For the purposes of kidding ourselves, the turning point of the game was in the 86th minute. Soames received a pass out on the right wing and dribbled into the area, with three defenders back-tracking. One clipped his ankles as Soames cut inside. Down he went, penalty claimed, none given. It was much more obvious than the one given at Blundell Park.

Burnley whacked the ball upfield and Blake received it on his chest in the middle of the Town half. He turned infield and drifted towards the centre of the Town defence, about 25 yards out, before slipping a pass between Groves and Livvo. Their substitute Mr Pap, ran behind Livingstone and fell somewhere close to the edge of the penalty area. The referee shook his head, told Mr Pap to get up and indicated it was a dive. Play continued for three seconds before the referee was made aware of the linesman, motionless with his flag across his chest. After a long discussion, a penalty was given. Livingstone wasn't even booked. BLAKE placed the ball near the penalty spot and drilled it into the bottom right corner, Coyne only just failing to tip it aside. More of the ‘diehard' Town fans trudged off muttering in basic Anglo-Saxon.

Before the restart, Groves replaced himself with Bolder and Payton came on for Blake. There was a very brief flurry of activity near the Burnley goal as Bolder headed a free kick onto the roof of the net and Thompson managed to twist away from his marker before dragging a rubbish shot seven yards wide as Soames and Mansaram ran into space and pleaded for a pass. Fat chance. Thompson does sexy sways, falls and optimistic Jevons-like punts. Passing is for wimps. Payton, meanwhile, fluffed his opportunity to score his standard issue goal against Town, after being set free inside the box, on the right, with only Coyne to beat. A combination of foot and hand briefly kept the score down to embarrassing rather than humiliating levels. In injury time, the coup de grace. I Moore broke down the middle, past Campbell, past the flapping Ward, and he was free. Coyne advanced and I MOORE carefully and coolly opened up his body and curled the ball low around the grey mass and into the bottom left corner.

If you are still reading, well done: such fortitude. And you haven't found any of those positives we like to take from even the thrashyingest thrashing. Well, I suppose it proves what we all know: that Town's squad isn't big enough to cope with having Macca, Santos, Ford, Pouton, Boulding and, yes, even Coldicott absent at the same time. Groves looks physically incapable of much more exercise; Barnard has truly taken on the mantle of Jogging Danny B and is more hindrance than help to the fading Gallimore; and the youngsters are, well, young. Town didn't deserve to get close to a draw, as Burnley were superior; but so what - we big teams can afford to eschew the FA Cup these days.

It's not something to lose sleep over - the only things lost were a bit of pride and some hard-earned cash by the 250 supporters bonkers enough to travel. All in all, it's best to draw a veil over this game and get on with the rest of our lives. Starting with Millwall on Saturday. Now that is important.

Nicko's man of the match

Mansaram ran around a lot and Livvo did his best, but really DANNY COYNE was the only one who was entirely blameless. Despite conceding four goals, there was no hint of culpability. He kept the score down.

Official warning

G Laws

Refereed like the first game: no bookings, just two ‘big' decisions, both of which were highly debatable. He should have awarded Town a penalty when Soames was tripped, albeit inadvertently, and he weaseled out on the Burnley penalty. If Livvo fouled, then Livvo should have been sent off. The feeling was that Mr G Laws forgot who ‘brought down' Mr Pap. I am inclined to award the same score as last time, minus one point for being a homer. So 5.00000. Once a homer always a homer.